News from Rabbi Ilana

by Rabbi Ilana Zietman / May 13, 2024

Ilana leads services at Alt YK 2023.

To my GatherDC community,

I’m writing to let you know that after five unforgettable years at GatherDC, I will be leaving my position as Senior Rabbi this summer and transitioning into a Jewish leadership role on a university campus. I’ll be sharing more details about this in the coming weeks.

I hope you know how bittersweet it is to write this message. 

Serving you as your rabbi has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. Whether it was in a one-on-one conversation over coffee, a Jewish learning cohort, an Alternative Yom Kippur, a Beyond the Tent retreat, a Shabbat dinner, an Israel trip, a lifecycle event, or another Jewish experience, I have had the privilege of learning from and accompanying you on your inspiring Jewish journeys. I can’t thank you enough for honoring me with your openness, curiosity, vulnerability, humor, questions — and the invitation to be part of your life.

Rabbi Ilana embraces a community member.

I’ll soon be writing some more reflections on my time at GatherDC, as there’s so much to reflect on! For now, though, I want to share why I’m moving on.

During these past five years getting to know Jewish 20s and 30s, I’ve seen again and again that so many young Jews enter their adult lives still looking to deepen their sense of Jewish community, knowledge, and identity. Being Jewish is a lifelong, active pursuit, and I feel called to serve Jewish young adults in a campus setting to support them at an earlier stage. This also happens to be the right change coming at the right time. As you know, it has been a tense year for college campuses around the country. Jewish students from many walks of life are struggling to feel seen. I hope I can offer support and help to foster a joyful, vibrant Jewish community on campus right now. I want to help all students heal, find meaning in their Judaism, and care for and be cared for by their peers in the years to come.

Ilana at a Passover Seder in the Gather townhouse.

In my new role, I will also have the unique opportunity to work with fellow clergy and students across religious backgrounds. Interfaith dialogue and understanding is as important now as it ever was, and I am deeply grateful that I’ll be able to focus on this hard and important aspect of rabbinic work.

GatherDC has given me so much more than I could have imagined, and I know the next Community Rabbi will feel just as lucky to start their journey with you all. I know whoever is next (is it you?!) will bring wonderful things to this community.

While I will be leaving GatherDC, I won’t be going far. I would love to grab coffee with you before I take some time to rest this summer. Please feel free to sign up for a coffee with me — no matter if we’ve never met, had coffee a bunch of times, or had one coffee five years ago.

Ilana leads tashlich with Sixth and I in 2023.

I can’t think of any other way to end this message other than saying todah rabah — a most heartfelt thank you for everything you’ve given me and one another, and for all the meaningful Jewish connections we’ve built together. 

Rabbi Ilana

The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.